Protestant Canon

It has been a while since I logged in to CAF, and I asked this question a while back, but never quite received a satisfactory response. This question re-surfaced in my mind when the History channel recently broadcast a documentary about Martin Luther and the Reformation.

The question is this: How is it that the “apocrypha” were declared un-inspired? Put another way, how can something declared Holy and the Word of God in the 4th century – and accepted as such by Christians for many centuries – be declared un-Holy in the 16th century? I realize that some doctrines develop over time, such as the Bible’s table of contents – but has there ever been something declared Holy in one era, subsequently declared un-Holy in another era?

There’s a difference between “unholy” and “not inspired.” Protestants don’t accept those books in the same way the Catholics do not accept some Orthodox OT books (even though they came from the same tradition…)

Would you say the Orthodox books (chapters) you don’t accept are “unholy”?

You may have to dumb it down for me. What Orthodox books / chapters…?

Some Orthodox Catholics accept certain books and extra chapters as inspired that your Catholic Church does not. Therefore the Orthodox Catholics who came from the same tradition that your Church comes from are in disagreement. So they could easily say that your Church is wrong for not accepting books that they believed were always inspired. This is exactly what you’re saying to Protestants. If all Catholic Church’s were in agreement with the bishop of Rome over the OT Canon then you may have an argument, but they’re not.

My Catholic Church?

I don’t think it was a simple declaration that made that happen. I think there was a growing movement in the Catholic world to question the Deuteros, and I think this may be partly due to the Renaissance. The Renaissance got people looking back to ancient sources like the early Church Fathers, which is great, but part of the result of that was that there was a renewed interest in a wide debate over the inspiration of the Deuteros that happened in the first four centuries of the Church. The sixteenth century Catholic world, I think, was recreating that. Then, when the Protestant reformation came along, it became convenient for the Reformers to reject all appeals to the Deuteros, and so they followed the perspective that viewed them as uninspired, even though that should have been settled centuries before (and had been, if only the Renaissance hadn’t brought it up again). Anyway, that’s one theory. It wasn’t a declaration so much as a general adoption of a convenient position that was coming into vogue among some scholars.

Where on earth did you get the idea that Protestants declared the apocrypha “unholy”??? For goodness sake, it was only in the nineteenth century that publishers in the English-speaking world stopped including the apocrypha in Protestant Bibles in order to produce smaller and cheaper editions of the Bible.

Prior to the nineteenth century, the apocrypha was included in its own section. It was not considered authoritative, but it was considered useful for an example of life and useful in manners, as the 39 Articles put it.

So, please explain to me why from the Reformation until the 19th century Protestants were forced to put up with “unholy” books in their versions of the Bible??? If they thought they were unholy, don’t you think Luther and King James would have eliminated them from their Bible translations?

The simple explanations of why Protestants separated the Deuterocanonical books into their own section is that they had doubts as to the authority and/or the authenticity of the books. And these doubts as to authority/authenticity were not something imagined in the sixteenth century. They existed much earlier (St. Jerome expressed such doubts) and are reflected in the fact that these apocryphal books are not included in the Hebrew canon.

There is only one Catholic Church. I don’t know what you mean by “If all Catholic Churches were in agreement with the bishop of Rome over the OT Canon” ONE, Catholic Church. Any church not under The Pope is not Catholic. Some Orthodox traditions have extra OT books. There is no such thing as “Different Catholic Churches” who have “Different OT Canon’s”

What are you talking about? The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are not the same Church. The Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church.

When you say “Orthodox Catholics,” I assume that you are referring to Eastern Orthodox Churches. Generally the term Catholic refers to those in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. These are both Latin rite Catholics and Eastern Catholic Churches. All Catholic churches, East and West, use the same Bible canon.

The term Eastern Orthodox refers to the Churches affiliated with the Patriarch of Constantinople which have been out of communion with Rome more or less since since the Great Schism. There are also Coptic Orthodox Churches of the East with minor canonical differences.

This terminology may be a minor point but it has the potential to cause confusion.

There is an interesting chart of Bible canons at:

I’ve read the books in question and have found sections that brought grace to my life. I’ve read other books of the bible, accepted by Catholics and protestants alike that were a hugely boring read.

You call yourself a skeptic but I don’t know how you define that. Is it a skeptic of Christianity in general or the Catholic Church?

I understood “holy” to mean “divine.” In other words, inspired texts are Words spoken by God himself. Therefore, if something is not divinely inspired then it does not have the quality of being Holy. Have I misunderstood? Can a book be holy while also not having the quality of being divinely inspired?

Ah - this is interesting and I had not heard this perspective before, thank you.

Something can be holy and not god-breathed. In my opinion, things can be made holy through being set apart and consecrated to God. Protestant objections to the apocryphal books were not because they thought the content of the books was unholy (they were recommended for individual reading and instruction) but because they thought they lacked authority to establish or confirm any Christian doctrine.

The apocrypha makes very interesting reading. But it is nothing more than un-inspired works and should be taken as such.

So who says the apocrypha is uninspired??..that would be the same folks who declared the authentic writings to be inspired. The apocryphal writings just didn’t “make the cut.”
St Ignatius of Antioch was a prolific writer of his times, and not considered “apocryphal” but his works are not considered inspired.

I don’t remember all that went on in the 16th century as far as declaring the apocrypha “un-holy”…but I do recall Pope Benedict XIV (1740 to 1768) declared certain popular apocrypha to be “impure sources of tradition.”

Back in A.D. 170, the author of the descriptive Latin catalogue known as the “Muratorian Fragment” mentioned certain works as fictitious or contested. At the same time St. Irenæus called attention to the great mass of heretical pseudographic writings. Later St. Athanasius in 387 found it necessary to warn his flock by a pastoral epistle against Jewish and heretical apocrypha. In 447 Pope Leo the Great wrote pointedly against the pseudo-apostolic writings, “which contained the germ of so many errors . . . they should not only be forbidden but completely suppressed and burned”. No apocryphal work found official recognition in the Western Church.

Remember, there is really only one authority when it comes to holy scripture and that is the Roman Catholic Church.

Also, there were always groups within The Church who were disobedient and wanted to maintain their own traditions whether it was in line with what The Church taught or not. But even The Orthodox do not question if the Catholic OT cannon is God-inspired. They have all the same books, and some extra. Protestants removed some books because they say that they are not God-inspired. Or at least not on the same level as the other 66 books. What happened with all who disagree with what The Catholic Church teaches? They separate from The Catholic Church. Sometimes it is not quickly. Some schisms took a long time. Some were almost instantaneous. So your argument is void. Because if one of the different Orthodox canon’s Is right, your canon is wrong. If the Catholic Canon is right, your OT Canon is still wrong because you are missing books.

SextusEmpircus is asking about the Deuterocanonical books, which Protestants commonly call the Apocrypha.

I am a bit confused. Are the seven books that Luther removed from the OT inspired or uninspired?

I think he is confused by the term “apocrypha”, which often refers to false writings. I don’t think he’s referring to the Deuterocanon, which the Catholic Church recognizes as inspired.

Got it. Can you provide an example of scripture that is holy and not God-breathed, or are you saying the apocrypha fits this paradigm?

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